Mike Tucker's The Nightmare of Black Island is a Tenth Doctor book, one of the new hardback series, and this one's Ten and Rose. It's a pretty standar...moreMike Tucker's The Nightmare of Black Island is a Tenth Doctor book, one of the new hardback series, and this one's Ten and Rose. It's a pretty standard-type Doctor adventure: you got your spooky remote locale (including an abandoned lighthouse), you got your townsfolk all scared of spooky things going on, you got your mysterious recluse up to mysterious doings. And oh yeah, there's also aliens! But it's also a fairly kid-friendly adventure, too; nothing terribly scary, and nothing unusual in the way of character development for either Rose or the Doctor (modulo an amusing throwaway line the Doctor has about how he never sleeps, because he'd tried it once and didn't like it). There's also a Torchwood joke that made me grin.
Very fast read, though, so a bit less substantial than I'd have liked; the prose was pretty lightweight and one or two places where I wanted another comma or two. Two and a half stars.(less)
The first book of my 2008 book log (note the shift in icons to designate these posts!) is another Doctor Who novel: The Last Dodo, by Jacqueline Rayne...moreThe first book of my 2008 book log (note the shift in icons to designate these posts!) is another Doctor Who novel: The Last Dodo, by Jacqueline Rayner. I'd previously read and enjoyed her The Stone Rose, so I wanted to give her another shot. This one's a Ten-Martha--but I have to halfway wonder whether Rayner just has a preference for Ten-Rose, or perhaps just a better grasp of Rose, because she didn't seem to get Martha quite right at all for me.
Which is a shame, because there's a big chunk of this book that's from Martha's point of view, so there was plenty of opportunity to delve into her as a character. Thing is, much of Martha's sections were actually in first person--and Rayner gives her a voice that comes across as a bit too ditzy and teenager-y for the young woman we see on the show, especially given that Martha's supposed to be a medical student after all. And this is related to the book's other major issue: it really needed another edit pass or two. The Martha sections alternated between first and third person for no apparent reason, and to have a first person Martha section immediately followed by a third person was quite jarring. So was the one occurrence I found where two short paragraphs were repeated one right after the other on a page.
This is not to say it wasn't a fun read, though. The concept was pretty basic; SF/F has certainly seen the concept of a mad collector trying to get the last one of every extinct species into a zoo before. This time around, the collector in question trying to corner the last Time Lord certainly has some potential for interest--though this wasn't explored nearly as deeply as I'd hoped. Still, the Doctor reacting to and sympathizing with all the trapped creatures rings true for him as a character, and even if Rayner's grasp on Martha is kind of shaky, she's good and solid on the Doctor. Two and a half stars.(less)
Let's get one thing straight: despite the fact that the Second Doctor and Zoe Heriot are on the cover, The Indestructible Man is not a Doctor Who nove...moreLet's get one thing straight: despite the fact that the Second Doctor and Zoe Heriot are on the cover, The Indestructible Man is not a Doctor Who novel. Rather, it's a fan novel for Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, with bonus references thrown in for other creations of Gerry Anderson's as well. All the various pertinent names of characters and organizations have been changed, of course, but this thing is very clearly a Captain Scarlet/Doctor Who crossover fan novel.
That said, this is not actually a bad thing, if you don't mind that a novel with Doctor Who branding on it does not actually really heavily feature the Doctor. He and his Companions--in this particular case, Zoe and Jaime--are almost really bit players against the larger backdrop of the story. They serve crucial plot functions, and there's some good character development for all three of them, but they're really only there to be catalysts to the story.
Which is this: thirty years after the original invasion of the Myloki, the Earth organization PRISM has been driven underground to become SILOET. Earth won their war against the alien invaders, but at the heavy cost of planet-wide deterioration of civilization. The society in which the Doctor and the others arrive is a twisted and dystopian one, and surviving what havoc this wreaks upon their own lives takes up a good portion of the initial stretch of the action--also the weakest part of the story, as it was in this part where my one issue with the plot occurs (i.e., the handwavy explanation for why the Doctor sustains a fatal wound yet does not regenerate). Later on, though, once the main conflict gets underway, the book gets its feet under it and is quite enjoyable.
And I have to admit, Messingham does do an excellent job ramping up the tension for the inevitable bringing on camera for his analogues of Captain Scarlet and Captain Black: Grant Matthews and Karl Taylor. There's a bit of an amusing attempt to link into past Doctor Who history by setting up UNIT as a predecessor organization to PRISM, and references to old UNIT records about the Doctor--though the Doctor, I note, never fesses up to being the same man who dealt with UNIT a hundred years before. Last but not least, in reading about Matthews, I couldn't help but think of how the Doctor Who universe has its own Captain Scarlet analogue: Jack Harkness. ;)
So yeah, fun, once it got started. Three stars.(less)
Watching Fourth Doctor episodes with Leela for the first time since I started paying active attention to Doctor Who put me quite in the mood to pick u...moreWatching Fourth Doctor episodes with Leela for the first time since I started paying active attention to Doctor Who put me quite in the mood to pick up my housemate's copy of Psi-ence Fiction, by Chris Boucher, a Fourth Doctor and Leela adventure. I am not, however, entirely sure of what I got for my reading effort.
The dialogue and interaction between most of the characters, I have to admit--threw me. This includes the interactions between the Doctor and Leela, too. There is an overall sense of disconnectedness to it, for reasons which are actually pertinent to the plot; yet, something about Mr. Boucher's writing style didn't quite make it work for me. At least, during the first half of the book. I'll grant that towards the end, it started coming together better and feeling more like a Doctor Who story.
I was further hampered by not liking most of the cast members du jour very much. Most of the characters are students who clearly don't like each other very much, and who, as a consequence, are always sniping at one another. As a reader, then, I had very little opportunity to find anything to like about any of them. Hands down, the strongest character in the plot is Leela--and then mostly in the contrast between her primitive view of the universe and the modern-day university setting she and the Doctor visit. There's something delightfully surreal about primitive Leela trying to interact with a parapsychology professor and his students, and there are moments in an otherwise erratically paced plot where that works quite well.
The last issue I had with the story is the biggest, though: I felt it was a cop-out, since the Doctor doesn't actually get to be the one to resolve the problem at all. To have that just when the book was finally coming together for me threw it off the rails at the last minute. So ultimately, I'm giving this one two stars.(less)
The Empire of Glass, by Andy Lane, is another of the free ebooks of classic Doctor Who novels available for downloading on the Doctor Who site. This...moreThe Empire of Glass, by Andy Lane, is another of the free ebooks of classic Doctor Who novels available for downloading on the Doctor Who site. This one's First Doctor, with Steven and Vicki as his Companions, and turned out to be a lighter read than I was expecting for a First Doctor story--perhaps because of having my expectations set by The Eleventh Tiger. Yet, it stands up pretty well overall, and upholds what I'm coming to expect as a common trait of a Doctor Who novel: throwing you several seemingly disparate plot elements in one big initial burst, and then spending the rest of the novel tying it all together.
This one's got a whole bunch of seemingly very disparate elements, as well as a plethora of historical personages: the mystery of the vanishing Roanoke colonists in the New World, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and the political situation going on in 16th-century Venice. The presence of Shakespeare in particular was kind of amusing and weird, given that ol' Will shows up in a Tenth Doctor episode--and this novel references an encounter he had with the Fourth Doctor as well. It does make me begin to wonder how many times the Doctor has shown up to hassle any given historical personage, and when any of them start to keep track. ;)
Companion-wise, I think I like Ian and Barbara and Susan better for First Doctor stories so far; Vicki still remains mostly a non-entity to me, and at least in the first part of this book, so does Stephen. He gets a little more interesting as he develops a strong bond with Christopher Marlowe towards the end, as well as a change in his relationship with the Doctor... but I suspect I'd need to see more of his episodes before I'd really have a feel for him. (I did, however, grin as Marlowe shamelessly hit on Steven right and left. Hee.) As for the Doctor himself, he's pretty typically portrayed in this story. But there's one interesting bit where he opens up to Vicki a bit about missing Susan, which really does rather resonate with that Seventh Doctor episode I'd read earlier this year, when he was still missing Susan.
I didn't particularly get much out of the farcical subplot involving Cardinal Bellarmine (yet another historical personage in the story, apparently) being mistaken for the Doctor. But I did like the major other mover and shaker in the plot being another Time Lord, a character the author borrowed from another Doctor Who writer; it was neat to see a plot involving another Time Lord who wasn't actually a villain. All in all, three stars.(less)
The Sensorites is a rather old Doctor Who novel--and unlike all the other Doctor novels I've read so far this year, it's actually just a novelization...moreThe Sensorites is a rather old Doctor Who novel--and unlike all the other Doctor novels I've read so far this year, it's actually just a novelization of an actual episode. The good news is, at 143 pages, it's a very light read. The bad news is, at 143 pages, it's a very light read.
Too light a read, in fact. More than once, I found the author offhandedly summarizing something such as "Barbara persuaded John to do this" or "the Doctor argued the Sensorite Elders into doing that" in a sentence or two, rather than actually spelling that out in dialogue. Classic violation of "show, don't tell", this. The same thing happened fairly often in parts where we're just told that "Susan trusted the Doctor implicitly", or some such.
So, yeah. I've actually seen at least part of the episode this book was novelizing, and the actual episode is a much more interesting implementation of this story. The book? Skippable. One and a half stars.(less)
I have to admit, if there's anything more challenging than writing a Fifth Doctor novel and bringing out his subtler finer qualities, it's writing a S...moreI have to admit, if there's anything more challenging than writing a Fifth Doctor novel and bringing out his subtler finer qualities, it's writing a Sixth Doctor novel and doing your level best to keep him from being annoying. Craig Hinton's SynthespiansTM makes a valiant effort at this: there was only one time I found the Doctor acting in a way that seemed actively irritating, and it was done in a way that was mercifully brief. At other points in the book, he had more of an air of just being loud and impulsive and brash--as well as being slow on the uptake to figure out what was going on and kind of random in what he chose to do about it. All of which seems in keeping with what I know of Six.
I've been advised by LJ user solarbird and LJ user spazzkat that one of the biggest points of annoyance for his Companion Peri is her acutely irritating "American" accent--which, thankfully, isn't a problem in the slightest when you're reading her in a book. She was a perfectly acceptable Companion in this storyline, proactive both on her own and with the Doctor, and with a side helping of facing some of her personal issues.
As for the story itself... not half-bad, though it occasionally got a little too cutesily self-referential for my tastes: there's a lot of in-jokes about twentieth-century television, including some about a show that's clearly standing in for Doctor Who. (On the other hand, I was also quite amused by the reference to Tomorrow People, which has been getting watched around the Murk too.) There's also a tie-in to Lovecraftian mythos, which was kind of weird and amusing, as I think I'd seen in other contexts that some of the Cthululoid mythology is considered canon in the Whoverse. I found the writing a little clunky, but only occasionally, and overall a fun read. Two and a half stars.(less)
I thought it was weird to go back and read about the Seventh Doctor as a fan of Nine and Ten--but it's nothing compared to going back and reading abou...moreI thought it was weird to go back and read about the Seventh Doctor as a fan of Nine and Ten--but it's nothing compared to going back and reading about the First. In The Eleventh Tiger we have First Doctor, along with companions Ian, Barbara, and Vicki, showing up in 19th century China. Since the plot wasn't particularly noteworthy as Doctor Who plots go, the interest for me here was seeing One do his thing, and seeing what his Companions were like. Having just watched some First Doctor episodes as well, it seemed like the author got the characters down fairly well. So it was fun to just see all of that, including One's mannerisms and how he responded to situations, what was different between him and later incarnations, and what was the same. What felt familiar to me was certainly his emphasis on thinking his way out of situations versus using force, and occasional tiny glimmers of the regret at losing Susan that I rather suspect lay the first bits of groundwork for the hardcore loneliness we see the Doctor experiencing in the era of Nine and Ten. What felt different was that One is a much craftier incarnation, and very fond of being inscrutable and mysterious, hardly giving away any hint of what he has in mind. It's quite the switch from the garrulous Ten who frequently technobabbles to distract the opposition from what he's up to.
Plotwise, though... eh. There's spooky extraterrestrial stuff going on, lots of going "grr" between the Chinese characters and the British, and some fairly standard martial-arts-flick treatments of, well, martial arts. It started off kind of interesting, dropping hints about Chinese mythology and how that was tying into the situation at hand, but then the book took a hard turn towards the cheese. I was kind of willing to go along with the idea of old, frail-looking One in an actual fight--because, as a few characters pointed out, there were martial arts masters older than the Doctor--because he used his wits to get through it quickly, and becuase his opponent was an idiot. ;) However, when the story very deliberately set up a few events just so the Doctor, Ian, and Barbara could exchange dialogue quoting the very obvious old song lyrics that come to mind when one thinks of cheesy martial arts... well. I stopped taking the book at all seriously at that point, which let me enjoy it a bit more once my expectations had been properly adjusted. But it wasn't nearly as fun as the more serious Doctor stories I've read or watched, so far.
Though I will give it props for one thing--while time paradoxes are pretty standard in any time travel story and doubly so for a Doctor one, this one nevertheless managed to handle the time paradox subplot in a mildly surprising and at least initially unexpected way. So that part is fun. And I have to admit that I also giggled at the whole idea of Ian being the primary handsome dashing hero in a story, because after seeing the First Doctor episodes and hearing LJ user spazzkat joke about Ian and his ACTION SWEATER!, I kept envisioning that every time he was in a scene. Hee. So, overall, two and a half stars.(less)
I know that there are better Doctor Who novels than The Sands of Time by Justin Richards--I've read them. But unfortunately I hadn't realized until pa...moreI know that there are better Doctor Who novels than The Sands of Time by Justin Richards--I've read them. But unfortunately I hadn't realized until partway into this one that it was written by the same gentleman who wrote The Clockwise Man... which was a shame, since this made for a less than impressive first novel exposure to the Fifth Doctor.
Now, to be fair, Mr. Richards was also starting off a bit handicapped with this one, writing about the Fifth Doctor in the first place. My Fifth Doctor fu is admittedly scanty; of the various Classic Doctors, he's one of the ones for whom I've seen only a tiny handful of episodes. But so far my impression of him is... well, let's put it this way. Five isn't half-bad looking, and I'll give him marks for brains, but he's just dull. Especially when compared against the vivid charisma of Tom Baker's Four, and certainly compared to Nine and Ten. I am told by LJ user spazzkat and LJ user solarbird that yeah, that's about the size of things with Five. Problem was, when I compare this book to the other Richards Doctor book I've read, I could see practically no difference whatsoever between his handling of Five and his handling of Nine, past basic physical description. This does not assure me well that this gentleman would do better writing any of the other Doctors.
It also doesn't help that Five's companions, at least in this novel, are deeply annoying. Nyssa didn't get to do much more than lay around in an induced coma through most of the plot, and Tegan? Tegan was actively grating. She pretty much spent the first half the book whining about how bored she was, which honestly made me want to punch her lights out. I kept wondering exactly why this girl had decided to go haring off with the Doctor to begin with. I mean, sure--Four and Ten do just as much if not more technobabbling than Five, but at least with Sarah Jane or Rose or Martha, you have the sense that even if they don't understand half of what the Doctor's yammering on about, they at least give enough of a damn to try to pay attention and get a decent idea of what's going on. I am informed that this is also rather par for the course with Tegan in the actual episodes--so again, while one can give Mr. Richards marks for accurate portrayal of the character, this doesn't say much when the character in question needs to be pitched headfirst out the TARDIS door.
There are aspects of this book I did like--as with Jonathan Morris' excellent Festival of Death, Richards does try to liven things up a bit by jumping around in time and reminding the reader that why yes, the Doctor is after all a Time Lord and his adventures will sometimes just not be linear. That in fact is what kept me just interested enough to read through until the end to see what happened, but once I was finally done, I'm afraid I came out of it with an overall "meh". Sorry, Mr. Richards. One and a half stars.(less)
This is one of the free Classic Doctor Who ebooks that the BBC has available for download, and I decided to read this 'un first on the grounds that it...moreThis is one of the free Classic Doctor Who ebooks that the BBC has available for download, and I decided to read this 'un first on the grounds that it was Seventh Doctor and Ace, of whom I have seen very little, and that it was also calling itself a bit of a horror story, for which I was in the mood.
It's a bit odd jumping back to read Classic Doctor, when I'm so used to thinking in terms of Ninth and Tenth--especially Tenth. Seventh in particular was an odd change of pace, being of course very different physically from his later incarnations... and yet, at least in the hands of this author, showing signs already of what was to emerge once the new series got underway. This particular quote stood out:
Yet, for all those years, he'd put his own feelings to one side, tucked them away as if they were of no importance. Now the full weight of his troubles was becoming clear.
Instead of trying to confront his insecurities, like any rational being, he had buried them deep in his psyche.
He was the Doctor, after all, and expected to be immune to such things. Above such trivial matters as emotion and longing and... love.
It was only a matter of time before all those repressed feelings flooded his system like poison from an untreated wound.
It's rather funny that this book was written some time ago, and yet, rather indicative of what we were to get later. Hee. It's also worth noting that this particular author has in fact worked on the new series--he's the guy that wrote the episodes "The Idiot's Lantern" and "The Unquiet Dead". :D
Plot-wise, this one wasn't half-bad. You had your basic remote English town with creepy goings-on, your basic skeery monster killing people right and left, and some hardcore feeling old and run-down and almost ready to retire on the part of the Doctor. Meanwhile there was Ace, right on the verge of growing up and highly attracted to a handsome young local, and getting to blow stuff up at least once. There's a colorful side character who's kind of fun, some Nice Young People one hopes will get together, a particularly nasty person who does get his in the end, and a rather staggeringly high body count. There's a bit of exploration of cultural attitudes of the time--which is 1968--and quite a bit of callback to the Doctor's very earliest days with Susan. A bit of nice continuity there. Nothing too spectacular with the writing style; in one or two places, with overuse of sentence fragments, it kind of annoyed me. But all in all, a perfectly pleasant and quick read. Three stars.(less)
My first Tenth Doctor novel, recommended to me by LJ user eveshka, started off a bit slow--but picked up considerably in the second half. It also had...moreMy first Tenth Doctor novel, recommended to me by LJ user eveshka, started off a bit slow--but picked up considerably in the second half. It also had the distinction of being the first Doctor story I can remember encountering that's set in actively ancient Earth history, which was a refreshing change of pace. Yet despite the historical setting, there's a nice twining in of futuristic technology as well, and I liked that the scope of this story was more of a "solving a time mystery" rather than "saving the world from imminent destruction". We've gotten quite a bit of the latter in the Ninth and Tenth Doctor episodes, after all.
Writing-wise, I liked this author better than Justin Richards, even if her prose came across a bit insubstantial for my tastes. But her pacing was good, her grasps of both Ten and Rose were overall splendid, and she had some nice touches as well with the brief appearances of both Mickey and Jackie. And for fangirls like me, her one or two light little touches hinting at the romantic link between the Doctor and Rose were sweet. Three and a half stars.(less)
This is a Fourth Doctor novel loaned me by LJ user spazzkat, and it was a quite enjoyable read since I've had only scattered exposure to the Fourth Do...moreThis is a Fourth Doctor novel loaned me by LJ user spazzkat, and it was a quite enjoyable read since I've had only scattered exposure to the Fourth Doctor episodes--and hardly any of the ones in which Romana appears. It was therefore quite a neat change of pace to be reading all about the dynamic between the Doctor and Romana, wherein we not only have a Companion who's smarter than he is, but who's better at time travel too. ;) And, K-9 was a plus as well.
Anyone who had trouble following the tangled timeline of the second and third Back to the Future movies might find this book a bit of a rough go, since it's quite non-linear in plot structure. But it does a great job of introducing a lot of seemingly disparate plot threads scattered over two centuries and tying them up neatly in the end. There's a lot of homage to Douglas Adams in the overall style of the writing, not to mention a couple of the side characters, which added some amusement value--since Adams did work on the show in the Fourth Doctor era. And, space zombies. I mean, you don't get much better than space zombies! Four stars.(less)
As I've posted about on my journal earlier, the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, completely sold me on being a Doctor Who fan at last. And as I ha...moreAs I've posted about on my journal earlier, the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, completely sold me on being a Doctor Who fan at last. And as I have also lamented, Mr. Eccleston held the role for entirely too little time. So I was rather interested when I was browsing at the University Bookstore the other day and found out that the BBC has been releasing hardback Ninth and Tenth Doctor novels. I picked up the first one, The Clockwise Man, by Justin Richards. Disappointing read, unfortunately. The bones of a good plot were there, and it did rather feel like a Doctor Who episode at least in terms of the story, but the writing was very pedestrian--and Richards' fascination with sentence fragments, while not quite as pronounced as Annie Proulx's, was still enough to grate.
Worse yet, the author seemed to have very little grasp of how to write either the Doctor or Rose as characters. There were little bits here and there all throughout the book that just made no sense--for example, a bit where the Doctor is talking to Rose and seems unable to remember the word 'syllable', and as if he somehow doesn't have a perfect grasp of English. Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
I may check out other Ninth or Tenth Doctor novels by different authors, but I dunno yet. This one was not exactly encouraging. Two stars.(less)